For many of us, this Sunday’s Super Bowl represents a few hours of reprieve from work, responsibilities, and perhaps even diets, as we settle on the couch with friends and family to watch one of our nation’s most-celebrated sporting events. Tragically, perpetrators of the abhorrent and licentious criminal industry of human trafficking have seized on Super Bowl weekend and added a tragic dimension to what is otherwise a celebratory annual national event.
Unbeknownst to many, the Super Bowl is arguably the single largest sex trafficking incident in the United States (http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2012/02/02/sex-and-the-super-bowl-indianapolis-spotlight-teen-sex-trafficking/). Each year, the city that welcomes droves of party-minded Super Bowl fans also (unknowingly) hosts increased incidents of underage prostitution. The weekend of Super Bowl XLIV alone brought an estimated 10,000 prostitutes to Miami (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/super-bowl-sex-trade_b_1198168.html).
This year, however, host communities are taking steps to combat human trafficking at the Super Bowl. Over the past few months, local authorities and hotel managers (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-grace-meng/hotel-industry-combats-se_b_4682151.html ), NFL team owners and religious communities, including the Diocese of Newark and the Diocese of New Jersey, (http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2014/01/28/anti-trafficking-efforts-intensify-in-advance-of-super-bowl/ ) have been working together to educate their communities and to stymie child sex rings in New York City, Newark, and the surrounding region. Their work to combat human trafficking serves as a reminder of this modern-day evil that adulterates the dignity of the innocent and the vulnerable and plagues communities across the country (http://library.episcopalchurch.org/article/protecting-children).
It is estimated that 17,500 men, women, and children are trafficked—“induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion”—into the United States each year, and an additional 100,000 U.S. citizen children are trafficked within the United States (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34317.pdf). The majority of these victims are girls exploited for forced prostitution, or trafficked by organized criminals through residential brothels, online escort services, strip clubs, and massage parlors (http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/sex-trafficking-in-the-us). They join the more than 20 million women, men, and children worldwide who are victims of human trafficking and who have been sold for an average total cost of $90 U.S. dollars (https://www.freetheslaves.net/SSLPage.aspx?pid=285).
These modern-day sex slaves, these precious children whom God has called by name, are “robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes and hidden in prisons” (Isaiah 42:22, 43:1). They live concealed and silenced from rescue, restoration, or reprieve. We are called by God, and urged by our General Convention (http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution-complete.pl?resolution=2012-D042 ) in response to that call, to attend to the modern injustice of human trafficking that traps so many vulnerable in the bonds of exploitive servitude.
Help combat human trafficking at this year’s Super Bowl and beyond by raising awareness within your congregation (http://www.dioceseofnewark.org/liturgical/resources-human-trafficking-awareness-day-jan-11 ), learning how trafficking victims are recruited (http://www.divinecaroline.com/life-etc/protect-yourself-and-children-becoming-victims-human-trafficking ), educating yourself and others on how to spot human trafficking in your community (http://www.state.gov/j/tip/id/ ), and reporting suspicious actions or persons to the national human trafficking hotline (http://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/national-human-trafficking-hotline/the-nhtrc/overview). Join other Episcopalians engaged in this work through the “Episcopalians Against Human Trafficking” Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/EpiscopaliansAgainstHumanTrafficking ) and using the hashtag “No2Trafficking” on Twitter.
As we enjoy this Sunday’s big game and as we re-commit to our responsibilities after the game’s final touchdown, we must also re-commit to fighting the horrific exploitation of human trafficking; re-commit to emancipating those robbed, plundered, and trapped, yet whom God has called by name.